Top 5 Tips for Reducing Homeschool Stress

I'll be honest: there are times when homeschooling is stressful!  Sometimes there's nothing you can do about it (like, for example, when a certain world-wide health crisis completely changes your schedule), but other times there is a lot you can do to prevent and handle homeschool stress.  Tonight I'm sharing my top 5 tips for reducing stress--both yours and your children's! 



I will never forget the evening of my 2nd day of full-time teaching junior high in a public school. The first two days of class had gone fine. We had covered all of the introductory beginning-of-year material that I had hoped we would. Now it was time to start our first unit... and I was stuck! I was not happy with any of the ideas that I had, any of the units my mentors and team had offered. We were supposed to spend two weeks on the scientific method...and I had nothing!  

I went to Target that evening with my husband. After we picked up some food, we noticed a clearance shelf FULL of plants! And every one of those little plants was on the verge of death! And I knew what my new unit was going to look like.

It took very little effort to rally my students around those little plants...after all, it was a matter of life and death! It was easy to build a scientific method unit around our efforts because the kids were invested in the project.  They wanted to save the plants!

Which brings me to my first point in reducing homeschooling stress:

1- Study subjects your kids are interested in!  This saves SO MUCH stress! When they are invested in the subject they don't fight you to "do school" and they learn better because they care! You can do this by studying subjects your kids love already, doing unit studies to accommodate their ever-changing interests, and/or cleverly introducing subjects that you can help them become interested in easily (like the dying plants!).  

I do personally think there is one time when it is important to invest time in a subject that they may not love because it helps create a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their life. Do you want to guess what that is? I'll tell you: math. I think that math needs to be taught in a sequential, ordered series of spiraling curricula. Perhaps it's my own weakness, but I have not found a way to do this efficiently for kids over 8 years old without using a dedicated math curriculum.  I HAVE found 2 things about teaching math: 1- you can do it in short lessons, and 2- you can use subjects your kids love to review a TON of math skills.

2- Be at home at least one day a week. We have a lot of outside-the-home homeschool classes and activities: co-op, orchestra, gym, theater, dance, gymnastics, library, music, parks, and more. We enjoy going places and seeing other people! But all of these activities require energy that needs replenishing--both for you and your kids. It's important to have at least one day a week where sleeping in is okay and your schedule is not dictated by arriving on time to anything. I literally have to schedule in these days! Going places is a good stress for us, but it is still a stressor, and if you don't take a break from it, it can add to other stressors and create tension that you don't want to deal with.

3- Do NOT try to re-create the school environment in your home. The structure and rhythm of the school environment is designed to teach large groups of children who are the same age at once. In your home, you don't have to teach a large group of children who are the same age at once! Take advantage of the rhythm of your own home to create a learning structure that is best for your kids!  And remember, you don't need 6 hours of seat-work! Activities take longer in classrooms because transition times are longer for large groups of children.  When you work with your natural atmosphere instead of trying to re-create a different environment, you will have less stress.

4- Embrace Mental Health Days. Public schools have breaks for both the teachers and students built into the schedule (Teacher Prep Days, Fall and Spring Breaks, National Holidays), and every teacher I know still takes "mental health" days.  Sometimes you just need a day off. You can spend it with the kids (like an unplanned trip to a national park) or by yourself (on your computer while the kids binge watch their favorite cartoon or paint a new mural).  There are SO many ways to schedule these--you can take one when you feel stressed, schedule one in every quarter, or use any other system that works for YOU! I know one homeschooling mom who gives herself and each child a "No-questions-asked-day-off" coupon each month. Any member of their family can take their own personal day off each month whenever they need it. About once a semester, we take one day off of normal school work for a lesson in life skills: house cleaning!

Slightly related, I should mention that sometimes life events will affect your stress and school levels too. We had significantly adjusted schedules for days and weeks, with many more "mental health days" than normal when someone we knew died, when Hurricane Harvey shut down half of Houston, when we had a new baby, when we moved from Houston to Virginia (and again when we moved from a townhouse in Virginia to a house), and the world-wide pandemic in 2020. Your kids don't "fall behind" during events like these--they learn how to deal with life and become well-adjusted people.  When these events last for more than a couple days, we do a sort of "crisis schooling" -- we do math and reading every day, and other subjects become more flexible. We play more board games, do more units as a family, do more baking projects and art projects, talk about our feelings, and spend more time outside.  The kids might get to spend an hour playing video games every afternoon too. Sometimes they need the time to decompress and relax because everything around them feels like it's in crisis mode...and that's okay.  These times pass, and we all move on together.

5- Don't compare! This might be the biggest, most important tip of all!  Comparing is a thief of joy--don't let it in!  Feel free to be inspired by others. Use their great ideas! But if something they are doing would not work for you, don't stress about it! You don't need it.  If someone else has an early reader and you have a late reader, don't stress about it!  As long as your children are making appropriate progress, don't compare them to anyone (even each other)!! We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and usually when we compare we choose to compare our weaknesses (or our children's) to someone else's strengths. What an unfair comparison! No wonder it creates stress in our lives!  The best solution is to celebrate strengths, whether they are yours, your children's, or your friends'.  If you're aware of your weaknesses, there is nothing wrong with making a plan to improve them, but you absolutely cannot judge your progress by comparing it to someone else's!  Recently I was telling my husband that I was proud of my 13-year old for running a mile that day, when my 13-year old commented, "Yeah, but Mom ran 5 miles today and Dad ran 4. One isn't much compared to that." You see how the comparison stole her joy! She should have been pleased with her accomplishment, but instead she was sad because her "page 1" wasn't the same as our "page 50."  The story in your book is YOURS; don't compare it to someone else's.

You won't remember every day you teach, but there will be some that stand out like my second day of teaching public school. These 5 tips will lessen your stress, so that you CAN make the memories that will be most important to you and your family. 

I love to hear from you--feel free to send me a note and say "Hi!" You can also sign up for my newsletter in the sidebar, and you'll hear from me more often!



And if you're looking for more homeschool unit studies, be sure to check out our growing collection here!



Happy Educating,
Carla & the kids who don't sit still!

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2 comments

  1. I know a lot of homeschool moms are probably getting a bit stressed right about now.

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